What is the meaning to life ? according to sources found elsewhere among the catacomb’s of this place we call the internet, its defined as ; Significance, origin, purpose, and ultimate fate. I can agree with that for the most part however, I can’t help but wonder what the “old timers” might offer forward. Maybe a swift smack on the back of the head with an explanation of how good we have it, causing us to open our eyes wider than that wonderful surprise in the early morning walking around the backside of your truck. I have found sometimes it’s best just to go with it, grin and bare the pain in that moment and remember it will be short lived.
Wednesday I got a call from my friend, she had received my glasses from repair and I had to stop off in Ormond Beach to pick them up. I figured while I was “in town” I’d call my buddy James and see what kind of trouble he was getting into. Sure enough I found myself calling up the boss lady and letting her know I’d be home a little later than usual not to wait up with dinner etcetera. A beach approach, watching winter swells rolling in, And some assortment of beverages later we had decided we were doing a trip this weekend, Not just any trip for us… but a place in which we have only dreamed about, The Everglades National Park. We had planned on a trip to our local jungle of weekend warriors and lead slingers for this weekend, however all of the camp sites were for the most part taken and with good reason. Its Florida and our proverbial winter is constantly drunk, more so than that jock in high school who drove his Z28 Camaro and had the same track to Lynyrd Skynyrd playing on full blast every morning. We had a day of work left on the books ahead of us, and it would be the slowest day of the year. That night we packed and I had messaged some people with huge heart’s trying to help some lost soul’s find their way (thanks again guys).
Our morning started off late, we had only slept roughly 3 hours the night before because of preparations. A quick stop for gas and an en-route stop at a store netted us another paddle for the gheenoe and a new tank of propane for the grill. Around noon we had stopped and grabbed some subs, my buddy decided it was a great time to dust off his creepy bird lady skills and go full throttle with some animal control not witnessed since Dr. dolittle hit the scene in 1998 (his nature game is on-point).
Upon reaching the main entrance I had started sweating like a midde schooler who’s 2nd period crush had just sat next to him on the bus. With my pants tightened and my optimism running high, I realized it was about 4pm and knew we didn’t have long to get checked in with the rangers and get paddling. With all due respect the next person I refer to as, “Chatty-Chad” he went on forever about our camp sites, setting up our back country permit and continued to tell us we didn’t have much time. Compelled to tell us all the rules in possibly the slowest manner available. I bit my tongue and knew it was his job and he was just looking after us as any bald eagle would their do for the US of A.
Loaded up we hit the water and were immediately subdued by the beauty of this place. I knew at this point it went from a fishing trip to an episode of Amazing Planet. I quickly made ready my stand-by, NO service having, sprint cell phone and began to forget about the task at hand. About an hour after the first picture was taken the sun fell behind the clouds cutting day light in half. We were told that there was a beach called East Clubhouse on the west side of the park made up of white sand and shells, we never found it. The sun had prematurely set on two friends that were on the trip of their lives. At this point the prehistoric mosquitos that inhabit these parts made their presence felt amongst my barefeet and face as my childhood brethren searched out what we thought would be a good camp site, it wasn’t. Covered with mud and mangroves reaching to the tidal scars among the mud beach, we shoved off again moving further north. eventually we found a decent clearing under some trees and with daylight non-existent for the past hour we decided to jump on the opportunity.
With camp setup we dried our shoes and socks by the fire. The stars, and milky way took the stage. With marathon across the Florida Bay teaming with life we watched overhead as the occasional satellite scraped the heavens. I knew this place was medicine but I never knew it was this strong. I was sent into a relaxed state of euphoria, reflecting on my childhood. When I was Six years old my mother and I were pushed from South Florida in 1992 because of hurricane Andrew. Our two story apartment was destroyed, all that remained was the first floor (our floor). Our moving truck loaded to the brim with pictures and childhood memories and all of our worldly possessions were nearly all lost. When we returned we found the moving truck in the parking lot of Publix on its roof resting in about two feet of water. The apartment was now remodeled with new dining room water front property, thanks to the flooding from near by canals I grew up fishing in. Was it fate that I was to be pushed away only to come back and experience this place when I was older to truly appreciate its beauty, and simple offerings most over look ? I’d like to think so.
With the pork chops I slapped on the grill starting to make the raccoons draw closer, my stomach started speaking to me in tongues. I was compelled to sit and listen to some reggae as I sunk my teeth into dinner. With the dessert on the menu being hot and spicy boiled peanuts, we made short work of the night.
The morning woke me with sounds of creatures creeping around our camp site. With the Gheenoe placed on top of the cooler I knew the bandits would have a challenge achieving their goal. I opened the flap to the tent and peered out over the Florida bay my Dreams had become reality. the sun was rising, The temps were cool, and the wind was in attendance. Without a voice recorder I will attempt to give you a run down of the first conversation that morning.
(me) Oh $#!t…..
(James) What ???
(me) The tide….
(James) What about it ?
(me) There is none.
When we had awoken, the tide that was invading camp the night before, retreated back into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.
We were somewhat at a loss of words, Thinking about how wonderful some sloppy mud with the consistency of pottery clay from the movie Ghost would feel on our feet. Of course without all the sexual emotions present and the mellow sounds of the 80’s pumping in the background. We broke camp and prepared for our paddle back towards the marina. On the water we were guided by the local lemon sharks we had seen the evening before. I made a couple of cast just for poops and laughs but nothing. Eventually we came across another large mud flat, I told James to put the paddle down and grab a pole and get on the bow. Sheltered by the vegetation on the bank we figured what the heck?, We had a cut between land and an small island coming up and I knew it would be a little deeper, and possibly hold some fish with the current passing through. James made a couple of cast, boom next thing we knew a linesider was pulling some drag. Minutes later we got him boat side for some pictures, then we released him to get back to doing things that snook do.
We continued on for a bit and we noticed a redfish wondering, he was a veteran to the game and knew we were willing to give him a lip piercing, he wanted nothing to do with our jewelry. A couple cans of raviolis later and some paddling and I was on the bow. With rod in hand nothing, some locals paddled by slinging some lead and vanished behind us. As we approached land we prepared to unload and haul everything with the truck, to embark our next part of the adventure. The winds had increased and with the back country permit now on the table, we knew our chickee for the next evening was our next destination, fortunately the adventure was just beginning.
Post script: I know this was somewhat of a read, this is why I had split this blog into two post. Thank you for your time and patience reading through this. Part Two will be live soon.